Hands Off Iraq

The last Networking Newsletter was all about the 50th anniversary of the signing of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ironically, this was the time that Clinton and Blair decided to bomb Iraqi. Although there's little on our TVs about the situation, fighting continues on both sides and the US/UK military force is building up, not down. Cath Bann of Greater Manchester and District CND explains how activists in Manchester responded.

People in Manchester have been showing their concern at our government's actions. The piece of graffiti on hoardings on Oxford Road sums up many people's attitudes - "Ashamed to be British".

Contingency plans set up a couple of weeks prior to the bombing by a coalition of groups and individuals including CND, came into action, and within hours of the first bombs falling, the resistance networks were in gear. Here in the CND office, I was overwhelmed with calls from press and public, and worked furiously to inform as many people as possible about the planned vigil and demonstration.

The vigil, held at the top of Market Street at 5pm on the day bombing started was attended by over one hundred people, which is testimony to the strength of feeling on the issue. It received good media coverage, and all present were heartened to see such wide spread support for the anti-bombing cause.

From this vigil, pre-prepared posters and leaflets about the demo two days later were distributed, and later appeared fly-posted in many areas around Manchester. A press release was sent out and we did several interviews for radio, TV, and newspapers. As many groups and individuals as possible were contacted in the few hours we had available, and an effort was made to inform and involve members of the Iraqi and Asian communities in Manchester.

In the event, the numbers who turned out on the demo, despite having only 2 days to organise, despite the showery weather, despite it being Christmas, and despite not having a huge student presence due to the end of term, exceeded all expectations. It was immensely gratifying to see so many people (around 800), and particularly to see so many Muslims and Iraqis.

It is a tribute to all campaigners in Manchester, that when such atrocities happen, we can subsume our political, cultural, and campaigning differences and come together in such a way. The march culminated in a rally in the Peace Garden. People from many groups spoke, including CND, the Iraqi community, the SWP, other socialist groups and individuals.

Anti-bombing march held in December

The march was considered extremely successful, and we aim to build on our unity by continuing plans to oppose British and US policy in Iraq, be it sanctions or bombing.

The next event will be a national day of action on the theme of "Sanctions Busting". Full details are still being sorted out, but it will be in Piccadilly Gardens from 1pm on Saturday 27 February. In the event of any more large scale bombings, there will be a vigil at the Piccadilly end of Market Street from 5pm.

Greater Manchester and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (0161 834 8301, gmdcnd@gn.apc.org)